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There is something special about a baby’s first cry; that amazing transition from soundless presence to noisy participation is anticipated with excitement by expectant parents. That initial cry of entry was eagerly awaited by Nicole and Chad Bourg as they headed in the operating room. Instead the parents were met with silence after the delivery of their baby.

Nicole remembers:Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.15.27 PM

“I knew she wasn’t crying right and I kept looking at Chad’s face and the doctors kept on going on like everything was fine but I knew something wasn’t right.”

Nicole’s mothering instincts were spot on. The Bourgs’ baby was born with Pierre Robin Syndrome, a defect that caused her lower jaw to be significantly smaller than normal, a cleft palate, and the base of her tongue to be located too far to the back of her mouth. This displacement of the base of her tongue blocked her airway and cut off her cry.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.18.19 PMShe was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Houma, LA where she was placed under the care of Dr. Hugo St. Hilaire, a board certified surgeon in both plastic and reconstructive surgery as well as oral and maxillofacial surgery. In the days leading up to her surgery, baby Ella had a breathing tube as she waited in the NICU for the operation.

At only ten days old, she underwent an excruciating series of procedures to place a jaw implant that would be adjusted twice daily to stretch out her jaw in two directions. Prior to the surgery, the medical team utilized data gathered from CT scans to create a 3D model of Ella’s skull. They then 3D printed that model and used it to plan and prepare for the day of the surgery. In addition, custom devices were fabricated that would ensure the precision of every cut and each placed screw.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.17.36 PMAll of this meant that the surgery could be performed without damaging the jaw’s nerves or interfering with any of Ella’s teeth buds. And little by little, her jaw was stretched so that her tongue moved in to the right spot and she was able to breathe without difficulty. It was then, after 18 days of anxious waiting, that the breathing tube was removed and the Bourgs celebrated.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 4.19.00 PMElla is now enjoying her first month at home with her siblings and her parents have a new appreciation for the sound of a baby’s cry. In another month, her jaw implant will be removed and when she is a year old, she will undergo the surgery necessary to repair her cleft palate. Dr. Hilaire is very optimistic about Ella’s future and her parents are very relieved just to have her home.

Have you heard of similar uses of implants to help newborns? Join the conversation in the 3D Printed Jaw Implant forum thread over at 3DPBD.com.

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